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Nadal overcomes nerves to meet del Potro in French Open semi-finals

12 Juin 2018

Top seed Nadal, 32, trailed 6-4 3-5 when play was halted on Wednesday.

But if you think it's going to be a simple Sunday stroll for Nadal to get this 11th French Open title, consider that his opponent is a fitting foe on the final stage. Robin Söderling, one of two players to beat him at Roland Garros (alongside Djokovic), made that call earlier in the week, and he should know. "I have a plan", a confident Thiem, who dispatched surprise package Marco Cecchinato 7-5 7-6 (10) 6-1 in the semi-finals on Friday, told reporters.

Del Potro will switch his focus to playing on grass, with the 29-year-old confirming he will take stock of his schedule after Wimbledon. That crucial early juncture altered the course of things, though. He went down to Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarters at Monte Carlo and in Barcelona. "I just try to keep that going".

A tired Del Potro looked like he could not take any more punishment when a Nadal backhand victor gave him a break to love in the first game of the third set. If he wins the game, OK. "But I'm also aware that here it's tougher", said Thiem, the first Austrian in a major final since Thomas Muster won in Paris in 1995.

Nadal is only the third male player in the Open Era to reach 11 semifinals at a single Grand Slam, alongside Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors.

Although at times during the first set against Del Potro, especially when he was 0-40 down at 1-1 and 15-40 down at 4-4 it looked as though he might be in for a real scrap. He missed the tournament every year from 2013-16 because of injuries, including three operations on his left wrist.

He buckled at 5-5 though and sent a backhand long on break point, leaving Del Potro to serve for the match, which he did easily as Cilic sent three more backhands out.

"It was a very hard match against a very good friend and a very good player".

But Schwartzman continued to be the aggressor as Nadal played too short, or too long.

Wilander believes Thiem can worry Nadal if he is prepared to "take risks" like Diego Schwartzman did in the quarter-finals when he snapped the left-hander's run of 37 consecutive completed sets won at the French Open by snatching the opener. Over the past two years, including best-of-three matches, the Spaniard is 49-2 at clay tournaments.

Notably, Thiem is the only player to have tasted success against Nadal on clay over the last two seasons.

But while the Swiss has succumbed in three title matches in southwest London, Nadal has never tasted defeat in a final in southwest Paris, as Bresnik - and the rest of the tennis world - knows.

In the women's draw, Halep is yet to win a grand slam title but looks ominously ready to break her duck at Roland Garros when she faces Sloane Stephens in the decider on Saturday.

Halep won their most recent encounter, 6-3, 4-6, 9-7 in the Australian Open semi-finals in January.

Cecchinato's career has been tainted by his involvement in a match-fixing scandal; he was banned for 18 months in 2016 before having the suspension overturned.

Thiem had three set points at 6-3 but Cecchinato quashed them all and reversed a triple of set points in his favour, but he couldn't take advantage as two errors saw Thiem move ahead with victory in sight.

"It's a very nice feeling to come through that and make the final here for the first time".

The seventh-seeded Thiem, a 24-year-old Austrian, is, along with Alexander Zverev, one of the leaders of the new wave in men's tennis.

The No. 7-seeded Thiem beat Cecchinato 7-5, 7-6 (10), 6-1 in the semifinals Friday. Thiem got to 10-all with a drop shot of his own.

Nadal overcomes nerves to meet del Potro in French Open semi-finals